Severus is late to realize that he is not the only one who is taken with someone who is, taken.
Beta: Elanor Isolda
Rating: PG - for mention of drunkeness and persons being unclothed.
Warnings: None really
Disclaimer: I do not own any part of canon /Harry Potter/.
Summary: Severus is late to realize that he is not the only one who is taken with someone who is, taken.
Pairings: Severus Snape/Poppy Pomfrey, Poppy Pomfrey/Albus Dumbledore, Minerva McGonagall/Severus Snape
Quote Used: "There is no instinct like that of the heart." -Lord Byron
Author's Note: This story was written for the HP Fandom's "Famous Last Words" Competition.
Severus stared blankly ahead at the wall of his dungeon classroom. He had forced himself to sit through that day's lunch period to hold up his appearance in the face of the maelstrom that swept the school. He had, once more, become victim to the gossip pool that was so adequately equipped to spread lie and truth alike.
Only this time, he had not found himself to be a transvestite boggart in disguise playing the part of Longbottom's grandmother, but something much more sinister. Something unexpected from one whom everyone was certain fit comfortably within his confines of acceptable behavior. He was revealed to be someone who had somehow grown an actual heart in between rightfully stripping Gryffindors of their House points, and cradling the bitterness Life so diligently fed to him.
Severus sighed and fought the urge to hurl every vial on his desk at the wall with which he shared a test of wills. He knew that he would lose this competition with an unshakeable opponent, as he had lost the bid for the affections of the only one who honestly knew what he was made of. Literally.
Severus knew that he had been a fool to believe that Poppy could ever love him, but the strands of hope that ate their stubborn way first into his mind, and then his heart, would not allow him the dank silence of peaceful rumination. They were only focused on achieving their desires. Even his resting hours were suckled into the abyss of "What ifs" and "Maybes." There would be no easily found peace for Severus Snape.
Only with the help of stronger sleeping potions than were deemed safe by St. Mungo's standards would Severus escape the monotony of longing. Every passing in the halls, or expected trip to the Hospital Wing after yet another 'covert' Death Eaters' meeting caused Severus' veins to thrum with seductive hope. Every shared glance of worry when yet another problem arose for Potter to battle etched the aspiration deeper into his subconscious.
Severus tried to tell himself that the dreams and palpitations at the barest brushes of bare skin in passing meant absolutely nothing. But even as the words formed in his mind, his heart thumped a rhythm for her alone in protest.
Severus huffed aloud and set about retrieving the supplies needed for the next period. Lunch would soon conclude, yet more hours still would be drenched in the chattering presence of students. A group of first year Gryffindors and Slytherins was scheduled to arrive within minutes, and would undoubtably enter his refuge tittering away while casting inquisitive glances in his direction. Though none would be bold enough to ask why their Potions master had been discovered outside the school nurse's rooms in the middle of the night professing his eternal adoration while smelling strongly of Firewhiskey by an insomniac Hufflepuff prefect, the looks and whispers would say more than stuttered words and hitched sentences ever could.
There would also be a conspicuous lack of questions demanding details as to why their beloved Professor Dumbledore was in attendance as well, though not as sufficiently clothed. There would be no need for questions; all there was had already been made known, and Severus was once more the spark of amusement that sated the school's quota for topics of interest.
The scuffing of tennis shoes against the stone floors of the hallway, and a murmur of voices trickled into the classroom through the locked door. Severus set the last cauldron into place and strode to the entrance of the chamber. He reminded himself, as he neared the heavy door, that it was better to cling to routine, than to abandon reason solely because his pride and heart were equally shattered and torn. Attempts at quick mental repair would not stifle the increasing cries of his heart, nor erase the love and shame which bred from a meeting more than ten years past. Time and drink would have to dim the sorrows as they always had.
Severus unlatched the door and stepped out into the hallway. His eyes scanned the gathered clumps of students which separated like butter's cream from milk into Houses. Severus sneered appreciatively upon taking in his own House's adamant refusal to blend with the unworthy Gryffindors. His enjoyment at the prospect of an entire double period to express his grievances in vicious remarks and stolen points was abruptly interrupted by the arrival of Minerva McGonagall.
The sneer on Severus' face intensified into a scowl, and the quiet conversation ceased. Every student's gaze polarized between the two Heads in anticipation of any comments to come.
Minerva nodded silently before speaking. "Severus, if I could have a moment?"
Not to be shown up, Severus replied with equal formality, though sarcasm fed the rigid address. "Do you not have a class to which to attend, Professor?"
Minerva studied the wounded man's face and pursed her lips slightly. "Not at this period. A moment, Severus?"
Severus turned his eyes to the engrossed students, and then back to Minerva. "I suppose, if you insist, Professor."
Severus moved away from the threshold of his classroom to permit Minerva entry. He scrutinized the students once more with the promising threat of punishment evident within his eyes if any of them considered polluting the air with excessive noise. So terrible had his mood grown, that the promise did not fade from his eyes even when his sights had reached the groups of Slytherins. He expected much more from them anyway.
Severus closed the door and reset the lock into place without any further acknowledgement of the students waiting to attend class. He reluctantly walked to his desk at the front of the classroom to humor Minerva's predictable sermon that hung limply in the air, ready to be spurred into syllables.
Severus sat stiffly behind his desk and glared at the Transfiguration professor wordlessly.
Minerva transfigured the nearest student's desk into a high-backed chair, and perched nimbly on the edge. She arranged her robes around her legs and feet with great care and flicked her glasses-framed gaze about the classroom, purposely avoiding Severus' face. She had come bearing every intention of comforting her dear friend, but now that she was here in the oppressive dungeons, her breath seemed to have forsaken her.
Minerva settled for a compromise of focusing on Severus' right ear as she spoke. "Severus, I. . ." she began, but trailed off when she noticed that her voice sounded hollow as its echo returned to her.
"Severus," she tried again, quietly. "If I had known, I would have told you about Poppy and Albus. I never would have wanted you to find out that way. . ." The hurt and pretense of anger that smothered Severus' expression caused her to trail off again into silence. She could not stand to see one of her dearest, although sometimes unjustly malicious, friends sit before her broken hearted, yet doing his best to appear as though nothing at all had happened mere hours ago.
Minerva sighed, releasing every wisp of breath she did not know had been present within her into the empty room.
"Do you mean to tell me that you knew nothing about Poppy and Albus, all of this time? I certainly find that difficult to believe. You could have bothered to tell me that I had absolutely no chance whatsoever with her. Is this how all of you Gryffindors demonstrate your revered loyalty? Cultivate clandestine relationships, and then conspire with your fellow Gryffindors to humiliate other members of the staff?"
Minerva considered an equally caustic reply to the dig, but drew her wand instead. She turned in her seat and cast a Silencing Charm upon the classroom's door to prevent further leaks of the staff's love lives.
She faced Severus and tucked her wand away. "You know better than everyone else here that there are situations which require secrecy. This is most certainly one of them. You, of all people, should know how the wizarding world would react if it became public knowledge that Albus and Poppy were married," Minerva felt her chest jump a bit at the thought. "She would become yet another target in this war to destroy Albus. I did not know, Severus. Even I was kept in the dark about the entire affair. I heard the same rumors that everyone else did about you, the hallway, Poppy, and Albus this morning from the students. I went to Albus after breakfast, and he told me everything. Despite the numerous theories explaining the incident, none have revealed Albus and Poppy's true status. We both know that this is for the best."
"The best for whom?" Severus spat. "Best for two people who are running around like pathetic teenagers in their own world, or best for the person who was willing to give everything they possessed simply to obtain a few moments' grace after years of silent devotion? Surely, you do not mean that this can be best for me."
Minerva rose from her chair and edged her way around the desk. She knelt soundlessly, and took Severus' hand in her own. "Of course not. I wish that there was something more I could do besides make myself available for a chat if you desire to have one, but you will have to let me know what you require of me. I have valued your friendship and our shared experiences to a degree I dared never to disclose to you. You are not alone in your heartache. You never were."
Severus' eyes widened slightly as the full meaning of Minerva's words prodded him into realization.
Ere Severus was allowed to respond, Minerva straightened, and drew her wand. She transfigured the chair back into its original form, and made her way to the door.
"Severus, we cannot help whom we love, and we cannot control every tide of emotion," Minerva halted at the door with her hand on the knob, and her wand readied to cancel the Silencing Charm as she left. "For there is no instinct like that of the heart."